The new phenomenon of Social Media Influencers revolutionizes corporate marketing
Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend, said CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. An undeniable fact. And these days, nothing influences people more than referrals on social media. Another undeniable fact.
A social marketing survey carried out recently by the McCarthy Group, found that millennials do not trust advertising or salespeople, in general. Neither do millennials get attracted to traditional advertising strategies like TV ads, billboards, and even Internet ads on Google. Instead, they trust their friends and the people they follow on social media.
In this digital era, with millennials as the largest spenders in the economy, it is hardly surprising that social media features so strongly in marketing. In fact, “social media influencers” are the current chart-busters in the corporate world.
Social media influencers are talented and smart young people who have millions of fans on Internet platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. These instant interactive sites provided an easy and comfortable space for young people to digitally share their day-to-day experiences. This led to regular users being able to build large numbers of followers just by connecting and chatting with people of similar taste. Scott Cook, who co-founded the financial software giant Intuit, once said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Discussing tastes and habits and telling stories became a hobby. As time went by, these regular people, just like iconic figures and celebrities, built up millions of followers just because they had similar tastes.
The corporate world pounced on this growing phenomenon and blended it in their individual marketing strategies. A recent survey by digital agency Burst Media found that marketing through social media influencers brings great Return on Investment – $6.50 for every $1 spent.
Up until recently, celebrities were the mainstay in brand advertising. Centuries ago, the British royal family gave patronage to English potter Josiah Wedgwood, and appointed him potter to the Queen of England. Today, Wedgwood ceramic is synonymous with class and quality, and is a household word. Similarly, American silent movie actor Fatty Arbuckle, in 1905, provided the first celebrity endorsement of Murad cigarettes. Of recent times, Selena Gomez, with 122.9 million followers, became the #1 most followed on Instagram, and, along with 48.5 million followers on Twitter, became the 15th most followed on Twitter.
Today, regular people with large followings, have been thrust into the limelight as “social media influencers.” Young people have the opportunity to become millionaires overnight, by building a huge following of fans around whatever their overwhelming passion, then reaching out to companies and offering themselves as brand ambassadors for products and services. 29-year old Canadian YouTube personality, Lilly Singh, with 11.9 million YouTube followers and a Coca Cola contract, was the highest earning woman on YouTube in 2016.
From another perspective, millennials believe in causes, and social media influencers bring them the ability to work toward their causes. For instance, 27- year old Jerome Jarre is a social media influencer who leveraged his follower power for charity. Together, with several fellow influencers, Jarre collected $1 million in merely 19 hours for famine-devastated Somalia.
In this digital age, where Internet has become a vital component of people’s daily life, social connections on the Internet are inevitable. From being a mere navigational tool, Internet, through social media, has become a transactional tool. The first identifiable social media web site was Six Degrees which launched in 1997. Two years later, the first blogging sites were launched, allowing people to upload their profiles and connect with other users. MySpace and LinkedIn became popular in the early 2000s, followed by Photobucket and Flickr for photos. In 2006, FaceBook and Twitter went global, and still remain among the most sought after of social media sites. With blogs becoming popular, social media users were able to create online diaries and have interactive discussions with other bloggers. This enhanced web communication, led to user-created content, and was known as Web 2.0 or the social web.
Nevertheless, as former CEO of the youth marketing consultancy, YouthLogic, Connor Blakely, said, “Following all the legal requirements is half of what matters. As an influencer, making sure you believe in and can stand behind not only the product, but the brand you promote, is crucial to trust and credibility with an already skeptical audience.”
Social media influencers, come from different professions – the travel and food trade, beauty and fashion and fitness and health – to name a few.
David Michigan is a 29-year old fitness guru, who has a combined following of 5 million fans on Instagram and FaceBook. Of Native American descent, and born in Paris, in France, Michigan has captured the world not merely through his smoldering look goods and well-toned body, but through of his eloquence social media, and his persistence and confidence as a fitness trainer.
Michigan reaches out to his social media fans, connecting on the basic human need to feel beautiful and to have a shapely body. He describes himself as an “Online Personal Trainer,” delivering compelling motivational talks to online audiences, guiding and instructing followers on burning fat, losing weight, and gaining muscle. He also participated in helping the girls in Miss Tattoo France and soon in Miss Tattoo World. His ability to connect with his social media followers has been a driving factor in his success.
American radio host Carol Roth sums up this phenomenon, “Social media can be a powerful tool to listen to, engage with and gain access to customers that you would otherwise not be able to connect with.”